Monday, January 31, 2011

Not Off To A Good Start

Got up early this morning. Well, early for me. I teach afternoon classes, so I tend to sleep in a little during the week. But Mondays I'm home with the family before I head south, so I get up with the wife and kids to participate in the off-to-school hustle and bustle (I don't know how they manage the rest of the week without me).

Anyway, I got everyone out the door and went to pour myself a cup of coffee and catch up on some odds and ends at the computer.

I filled the coffee cup up with milk and then topped it off with coffee. I didn't realize what I'd done until I went to add the sweetener. At least it was milk, not cream or half-and-half.

So I started the day with a cup of coffee-flavored milk. Hopefully it'll get better from here on out...

FOD - Bend Over

A recent Michell Malkin column notes that the number of waivers granted by the Department of Health and Human Services has jumped from 222 to 729 - in two short weeks! Even more telling, one-fourth of the waivers are for unions.
At the end of last year, the Department of Health and Human Services had granted some 222 temporary waivers to businesses small and large, insurers, labor, and other organizations that offer affordable health insurance or prescription drug coverage with limited benefits. On Wednesday, the agency quietly updated its online list, which now reveals a whopping total of 729 Obamacare escapees – in addition to four states Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Tennessee – who collectively cover 2.1 million enrollees.

Most noteworthy: One-fourth of all the waivers (182) have gone to Big Labor groups across the country so far.

Without the HHS-approved exemptions, these health providers would have been forced to drop low-cost coverage for seasonal, part-time, and low-wage workers due to skyrocketing premiums. The only way they are keeping their health care is by successfully begging the feds to spare them from Obamacare. The Democrats’ law seeks to eliminate the low-cost plans (known as “mini-med” plans) under the guise of controlling insurer spending on executive salaries and marketing. The ultimate goal, as I’ve reported before: forcing a massive shift from private to public insurance designed by government-knows-best bureaucrats.
Congressional republicans plan to investigate the Obamacare waiver process. One hopes they will take a close hard look at the HHS reporting process as well.
Last year, the HHS website was very efficient posting a list of ObamaCare waivers that had been granted. Usually by the 3rd of the month the list was updated to included waivers that had been approved in the previous month. But something happened in January ... no new waivers (were) posted (until after the State of the Union speech)..

... the day after the President’s State of the Union, the new waivers are up. You may recall that there were 222 such waivers approved in November. That number has now jumped to 729 through the end of December. The total number of people covered by the waivers has gone from 1.5M to just under 2.2M.
Crap like this is just one more reason to unass that fool and his cronies ASAP. The blatant contradictions, hypocrisy, and outright lying by the loser-in-chief, aided and abetted by his lapdogs in the mainstream media, nauseates anyone who truly cares about the future of this country. Why the sudden lag in reporting waivers? Could it have something to do with efforts underway in congress to repeal obabacare? Or the timing of the SOTU address? Or both?

And the failure of the so-called mainstream media to investigate anything that might remotely cast a negative shadow on the left is sickening. Could it be that they have a vested interest in advancing the 'progressive' agenda?

Only a cynic would think so...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Funnies 2011.01.30

Here's hoping our friends up north can keep their sense of humor while struggling to cope with this winter's many inches of 'global warming'...




Q: What is the difference between Snowmen and Snowwomen?
A: Snowballs

Q. Why did the snowman have a smile on his face?
A. Because he saw the snowblower coming up the street.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It's An Ill Wind

I'll get off my soapbox of the last two days and stop pontificating about the sad state of America's education system. Today we'll turn to a subject with serious international ramifications - breaking wind (or as it's known in the African country of Malawi, "fouling the air," a lovely euphemism). From JammieWearingFool:
Breaking wind is set to be made a crime in an African country.
The government of Malawi plan to punish persistent offenders 'who foul the air' in a bid to 'mould responsible and disciplined citizens.'
But locals fear that pinning responsibility on the crime will be difficult - and may lead to miscarriages of justice as 'criminals' attempt to blame others for their offence.
One Malawian told the website Africanews.com: 'My goodness. What happens in a public place where a group is gathered. Do they lock up half a minibus?
'And how about at meetings where it is difficult to pinpoint 'culprits'?
'Children will openly deny having passed bad air and point at an elder. Culturally, this is very embarrassing,' she said.
If 'fouling the air' does indeed become a criminal act, Britain's Prince Phillip stands to be convicted on circumstantial evidence. (Thanks to BMEWS.)



Her Royal Highness the Queen (on the left in the lovely purple outfit) does not seem amused. The remainder of the royal party, however, seem to be having a hard time controlling themselves...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2011.01.28

Dedicated to obama and his SOTU address:

"You talk too much. I can't believe the things you say..."



Good ol' GT is bad to the bone...

I Weep For The Future - Part II

As a follow-up to yesterday's post about the inadequacies of our educational system, I'd like to expand on two points.

First, a short anecdote about how well prepared students are coming out of high school, or even the first two years of college. I was talking with a colleague who teaches statistical analysis for business majors. This is an upper level course (juniors and seniors), meaning that everyone who takes it has already taken college algebra and calculus. He says that on the first day of class he asks his students "What is 6 times 7?" Anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the class pulls out their phones and uses the calculator function, while the rest of the class figures it out in their heads. Regardless of the method, practically all the students get it right.

Then my colleague asks them "What is 7 times 6?" The same students who used a calculator to answer the first question do so again. They don't understand one of the basic principles of mathematics - the commutative property (a x b = b x a; 6 x 7 = 7 x 6; 2 x 3 x 4 = 4 x 3 x 2).

Sadly, we've reached the point where the use of a calculator to solve 6 x7 is not that remarkable. But the truly sad aspect of this story, and one of the points I made yesterday, is that students aren't understanding (and we're not making them understand) what they're being taught.They didn't need to recalculate 7 x 6, they just needed to understand that 6 x 7 = 7 x 6.

The second point I'd like to make today is the importance of incentives. Here in Texas public universities are subject to what is called formula funding. As the name implies, schools receive state funds according to a formula. Part of the formula includes measures of enrollment and graduation rates. Nothing in the formula measures the quality of the graduates. In other words, the more students a university accepts, and the more it graduates, the more money it receives from the state. So the school is rewarded for dragging in warm bodies off the street, dumbing down the curriculum and lowering standards (grade inflation, anyone?), and funneling the mouth-breathing masses across the stage at graduation time.

I exaggerate somewhat to make my point, but not much.

It's heresy to say this, but not everyone belongs in college. We as a nation would be better served by accepting that and providing quality alternatives - trade or vocational programs, for example.

We'd also benefit from a thorough evaluation of the incentive and reward system used not only to fund our institutions of higher learning, but the faculty and administrators residing therein. We're overrun with administrators, most of whose function is to satisfy some governmental fiat. Likewise, I've seen numerous egregious abuses of the tenure system. Name one other industry where, once people are comfortably ensconced in it, they are practically guaranteed a position for life. (Well, okay, I guess that applies to congress also. I should have said "one productive and worthwhile industry.")

Reward professors and universities on the quality, not the quantity, of graduates and watch American productivity and innovation skyrocket.

But like I said yesterday, that's easier said than done...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Weep For The Future

obama's mention in his SOTU speech regarding a renewed educational emphasis on math, science, and other subjects he thinks will spur American innovation prompted me to think, not for the first time, that he doesn't have the slightest idea what he is talking about. Yes, U.S. students could certainly stand to improve their math and science skills. But more importantly, they need to improve their understanding of math, science, and other topics.

As a college professor, I have my own thoughts on this. Let's start at the top and work our way down. (Note: much of the following material comes from Critical Mass.)
“How much are students actually learning in contemporary higher education? The answer for many undergraduates, we have concluded, is not much”

36 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college.

Those students who do show improvements tend to show only modest improvements.
The above comes from a study that measured critical thinking, analytic reasoning, and other “higher level” skills (link here).

For many undergraduates, “drifting through college without a clear sense of purpose is readily apparent.”

Boy howdy, that last quote is right on target. At the beginning of each semester I ask my students "Why are you here? Why are you in this class, and why are you in college?" The typical response is a blank stare. Some of them mumble something about "to get a degree" or "so I can get a job." I can count on the fingers of one hand how many said "to learn."

Not convinced yet? More evidence:
For most of the past 20 years I have served on selection committees for the Rhodes Scholarship. In general, the experience is an annual reminder of the tremendous promise of America's next generation. We interview the best graduates of U.S. universities for one of the most prestigious honors that can be bestowed on young scholars.

I have, however, become increasingly concerned in recent years - not about the talent of the applicants but about the education American universities are providing. Even from America's great liberal arts colleges, transcripts reflect an undergraduate specialization that would have been unthinkably narrow just a generation ago.

As a result, high-achieving students seem less able to grapple with issues that require them to think across disciplines or reflect on difficult questions about what matters and why.
An outstanding biochemistry major wants to be a doctor and supports the president's health-care bill but doesn't really know why. A student who started a chapter of Global Zero at his university hasn't really thought about whether a world in which great powers have divested themselves of nuclear weapons would be more stable or less so, or whether nuclear deterrence can ever be moral. A young service academy cadet who is likely to be serving in a war zone within the year believes there are things worth dying for but doesn't seem to have thought much about what is worth killing for. A student who wants to study comparative government doesn't seem to know much about the important features and limitations of America's Constitution.
I wish I could say that this is a single, anomalous group of students, but the trend is unmistakable. Our great universities seem to have redefined what it means to be an exceptional student. They are producing top students who have given very little thought to matters beyond their impressive grasp of an intense area of study.
In other words, they know "what" but not "why." They lack the ability to analyze, integrate, synthesize - to think critically. My own experience with students reinforces this.

Now the big question. Why?

There are, of course, a number of factors. Chief among them, IMO, is the failure of the public school system to properly educate and prepare young people for college-level work. It is becoming distressingly more and more common for high school graduates to take a year or more of remedial classes, especially in math and English, before they can take freshman courses.

But public education is not the only problem. Much of the blame lies with the universities themselves. 

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a Washington-based advocacy group, graded many of America's universities on a basic question: What, if anything, should America’s college students be required to learn?
The group faulted (a number of) schools, including Yale, Brown, Cornell, Amherst and the University of California at Berkeley, for failing to require students to take courses in more than one of seven core academic subjects: math, science, history, economics, foreign language, literature and composition.

“At Stanford, you can fulfill the American cultures requirement by taking a class on a Japanese drum,” said Anne Neal, president of the trustees group.

“It is quite possible to avoid American history, or Plato or science,” she said. “Many colleges don’t even require their English majors to take a course on Shakespeare.”

“We’re certainly not saying that Harvard or Hopkins or Yale are not good schools, or that their graduates are not smart kids,” said Neal, who attended Harvard and Harvard Law. “What we’re saying is that those schools don’t do a good job at providing their students with a coherent core.”
This has far-reaching ramifications, not only for the students, but for society at large. How can future voters understand the complex problems and potential solutions facing this country if they lack the basic grounding and skills to comprehend, evaluate, and analyze competing claims and arguments? This may also be a contributing factor to the chasm between American political groups. Some people participating in the national debate may be ill-equipped to rationally consider positions advocated by the other side. Their clamor drowns out any meaningful exchange of ideas. Don't agree? Just read the letters to the editor of your local paper.  

So what can we do about this?

It is important to realize that universities, like people, have different individual characteristics. Stakeholders - parents, students, future employers, governors and legislators - "should decide for themselves whether a given school is living up to its obligations–and its own hype. There is a wide variety out there–and different kinds of schools are going to work for different kinds of kids. Parents and students need to be making informed choices about college–which means being aware that most schools out there are not doing what people tend to assume they do in the way of general education. Then they are better positioned to vote with their wallets and their feet, one way or another."

Got that? Send your kids to where they will get a good, well-rounded education. Avoid places that allow a Chinese restaurant approach to degree plans (one from column A, two from column B...).

I would also urge parents to be involved in the course selection with their kids. Don't let little Susie or Johnny take Japanese Drumming to satisfy an American Culture requirement. 

But most of all we need government leaders, administrators, and educators to ensure that students don't just earn a degree, but actually learn something.

How?
... deep engagement with complex ideas and texts, difficult and often solitary study, the discipline to write, revise, and write again. What students need most aren't additional social opportunities and elaborate services. They need professors who assign a lot of reading and writing. Professors, in turn, need a structure of compensation and prestige that rewards a commitment to teaching. ... Colleges are responsible for taking the first step toward reaching a newer, higher equilibrium of mutual expectations.
Federal and state lawmakers should stop providing hundreds of billions of dollars in annual subsidies based purely on enrollment, and should start holding colleges accountable for learning.
Easier said than done...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This Is The Pits

What an asshole - a totally unadulterated asshole.

Dennis Kucinich (democrap, of course, from Ohio) is suing one of Congress' cafeterias for providing "dangerous" sandwiches.
In 2008, the Ohio Democrat purchased a sandwich wrap filled with olives at the cafeteria inside the Longworth Office Building. After biting into the wrap, he cracked a tooth, according to the legal complaint

... the sandwich wrap (allegedly) was "unwholesome and unfit for human consumption, in that it was represented to contain pitted olives, yet unknown to plaintiff contained an unpitted olive or olives which plaintiff did not reasonably expect to be present in the food prepared for him, and could not visually detect prior to consumption."

As a result, Kucinich received "serious and permanent dental and oral injuries requiring multiple surgical and dental procedures, and has sustained other damages as well, including significant pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment."

No word yet on what sort of enjoyment was lost.
The asshole chipped a tooth (if he even did that much damage) and, like a true democrap, immediately went crying to his lawyer. "It's not my fault. Let's sue someone."

Granted, the cafeteria should step up and pay his dentist bill. But to claim "serious and permanent" injuries, along with "loss of enjoyment," is ludicrous.

Of course, the dems are in bed with trial lawyers, so this should come as no surprise. It is, however, a perfect example of why republicans want to see tort reform included in healthcare reform, and why the dems are opposed to it.


UPDATE: As JammieWearingFool points out, Kucinich has that gold-plated health and dental coverage that congresscritters get, but that is denied to the rest of us. So the asshole doesn't even have any out of pocket expenses. Yet he still files suit.

Asshole, thy name is Kucinich...

Evil Attack Squirrel Of Death

I used to ride motorcycles, but nothing like the following ever happened to me. The worst encounter I had with wildlife was when a yellow-jacket flew down my shirt while I was doing 70 MPH on IH 35. That pales in comparison to what this guy went through.  

If you can read the story without laughing out loud multiple times, well, you just don't have a sense of humor.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Preemptive Strike

Preliminary reports hint that obama will focus on job creation in tonight's SOTU address. He'll also propose 'investments' (read: more government spending) in certain areas. A brief look back reveals that more government spending doesn't create jobs - it eliminates them.
... if there is one thing we know with an empirical certainty, it is that increasing federal spending will not, on balance, create more jobs. Of course, whenever the government spends money someone is employed, or, at least, gets to cash a check. This is what Obama had in mind when he said--in a moment of supreme cluelessness--"spending equals stimulus." What Obama apparently does not understand is that government spending consumes resources, often inefficiently, that could better be used elsewhere. Whenever the government wastes resources, the country grows poorer and job growth is suppressed. This, in crude terms, is why the ballooning public expenditures of recent years have not caused a boom in the job market. (Text and chart from Power Line.)


As for specific 'investments', consider how well some of the governments most recent programs have worked. (from Doug Ross)
The "Cash-for-Clunkers" program cost taxpayers between $20,000 and $45,000 per vehicle purchased.

The "Stimulus" program, which cost $787 billion and was rammed through Congress using the premise that, without it, unemployment would not pass 8%, has resulted in persistent 10% unemployment and 17% "under-employment" (U-6). And the tab will be paid for by your children and grandchildren.

The $60 billion bailout of GM and Chrysler -- abrogating bankruptcy law with payoffs to various union bosses -- is an utter and complete failure. The businesses are unsustainable without a massive restructuring, including dramatically retooling union contracts.

"Green jobs" in the form of weatherization programs that have been utter, cash-burning frauds and failures. A series of spot-check audits of the $5 billion program indicates that fraud is rampant -- easily 20% can be chalked up to phantom services, blatant overspending on simple items, and unverifiable expenses. But not to worry -- it's only a billion dollars of wasted money, a pittance for this administration.

The bailout of AIG, orchestrated by the then-head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) Timothy F. Geithner, "wasted billions" of taxpayer money according to the inspector generator of the TARP program. The initial $85 billion rescue failed, forcing the Fed to pay above-market for the swaps it acquired. The result? "There is no question that the effect of the FRBNY's decision - indeed, the very design of the federal assistance to AIG - was that tens of billions of dollars of government money was funneled inexorably and directly to AIG's counterparties," according to the inspector general. In fact, the terms of the plan were so flawed that the Treasury Department had to dole out an additional $40 billion to AIG just weeks later. For his part in the debacle, FRBNY chairman Geithner was rewarded with a Secretary of the Treasury role by President Obama.
If the past is any indication, when obama starts babbling about 'investments' and other government programs, hide your wallet...

Dentist Visits For Men

A while back Harper had a post about a chain of dental clinics that, among other things, rewarded kids for visiting by giving them candy. Well, here's the men's version. (from JammieWeaingFool)
Advanced drugs can cure many ills, new technology can revolutionise surgery but sometimes a low-cut, sorry lo-tech, solution is all you need - one dentist has bought herself and her ten nurses tight-fitting, cleavage-maximising dresses to distract worried patients while they work.
Dr Marie-Catherine Klarkowski said: ‘The most important thing is to take away patients’ fear. The sight of cleavages gets patients narcotised and distracted from the pain rather quickly.
‘Some patients’ mouths are already wide open on entering the practice.’
Men - so simple, so predictable.
It is unclear if the patients feel less pain but the number of clients going to the Relax & Smile practice in Munich has risen by a third since the change. Yes, they are all men.

Dr Klarkowski came up with the fleshy idea at an Oktoberfest event after seeing how men ogled waitresses in their traditionally revealing ‘dirndl’ outfits.
Beer and cleavage - always a winner.
‘I much prefer working in a dirndl, I enjoy looking good at work and it’s a lot more fun since we had the new outfits,’ said employee Larisa Hrustic.
Who knows. Pretty soon every visit to the dentist could involve a happy ending.

Miscellaneous Follow-Ups

A few short "the rest of the story" tidbits on previous posts...

On the recent U.S. - China state dinner: (original post here)

Lang Lang, the Chinese pianist, seems to be an obama favorite. He played at the White House event for Paul McCartney, the Beijing Olympics, obama’s Nobel Prize ceremony, and last week he played at Obama’s state dinner for Hu Jintao.

His selection of music at last week's event is a perfect microcosm of the relationship between obama and Red China. Lang Lang insulted obama and this country by playing a famous Chinese anti-American propaganda song. The obama administration is so clueless it didn't even realize we had been insulted.
Wei Jingsheng, the great Chinese democracy leader, exiled in the United States since 1997, wrote a letter to Congress and Secretary of State Clinton. He said, “I listened to that music with a big shock.” Wei explained that the song, “My Country,” or “My Motherland,” comes from “the best-known Communist propaganda movie about the Korean War,” depicting the Chinese army’s fight with the Americans. The movie is called The Battle of Triangle Hill. Wei said that the movie is as well-known in China as Gone with the Wind is here.

The Epoch Times quotes a Chinese psychiatrist living in Philadelphia, Yang Jingduan: “In the eyes of all Chinese, this will not be seen as anything other than a big insult to the U.S. It’s like insulting you in your face and you don’t know it, it’s humiliating.”

Obama’s hosting of Hu, and what amounts to a celebration of that dictatorship, has been a disaster, from nearly every point of view. George W. Bush did not grant Hu a state visit. Hu settled for a more modest visit — the kind the head of a police state should settle for, in a liberal democracy. Bush gave him a polite lunch and sent him on his way. Obama created the opportunity for a great CCP propaganda victory. The dictatorship is delighted, and the prisoners, dissidents, and democrats feel something else.

As of Monday Jan. 24 neither the White House, the State Department, or the Chinese Embassy has responded to phone calls requesting comments...


And in regard to the Ft. Hood and Tucson shootings: (original post here)

A Hero's Recovery
It is hard not to compare the press coverage of Jared Loughner's Tucson rampage with that of Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood. Hasan killed and wounded twice as many as Loughner, and the fact that he was an officer in the United States Army would seem to give his attack a particular significance as well as a unique horror. Moreover, Loughner was just a nut, while Hasan was part of a worldwide movement. Yet, for whatever reason, the press has been far more interested in the Tucson shootings and in the fate of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords than in the servicemen and women who were shot by Major Hasan.

It's nice to get daily updates on the condition of Ms. Giffords, but I don't believe I had even heard of Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler until today. Sgt. Zeigler had just finished a tour of duty in Iraq and was at Fort Hood in preparation for beginning Officer Candidate School when he was randomly targeted by Hasan. Hasan shot him four times, once in the head. That shot wiped out twenty percent of his brain and left a large hole in his skull. Eight brain operations later, Sgt. Zeigler has made what some consider a miraculous recovery:
For the past 8 ½ months, Zeigler has looked death in the face and refused to blink. He's battled back from eight brain surgeries and diagnoses that labeled him everything from "comatose" to "permanently disabled."

Zeigler was one of 32 who was injured on November 5, 2009 when accused gunman Army Major Nidal Hasan opened fire inside the Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood.

He was airlifted to Scott and White Hospital in Temple with four gunshot wounds, including one that shattered his skull. The bullet left a hole the size of a softball.

Zeigler's family and fiancée were warned that he may never recover.

He has since fought a battle that he refused to lose. And on Friday, a major victory: Zeigler walked out of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
That was in July. A few months later, Zeigler and his fiance, Jessica Hansen, were married. She has maintained a rather remarkable blog since shortly after the shooting. In it, she details Sgt. Zeigler's slow, painful and still incomplete recovery.
...it is a little hard to see why Major Hasan's Fort Hood attack, and the havoc it wreaked on Sgt. Zeigler and many others, has been of so little interest to the liberal press.
Muslim shoots U.S. soldiers - we are cautioned by the mainstream media against jumping to conclusions and linking the attack to religion.

Mentally unstable wacko shoots a democrat congressperson and others - we are told by the mainstream media that it's all the fault of Palin, talk radio, and conservatives.

What a world we live in...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just For Harper...

... and all the other commie pinko redskin fans out there.

You can buy the shirt here (scroll down a little).

FOD

About a week behind, but here's a pretty compelling indictment of both obama and his lapdogs in the media (abbreviated version lifted from here ; original and full source here).

"One of the most infuriating events in the last few years for conservatives is surprisingly not the election of Barack Obama. What burns conservatives most of all is the refusal of the journalistic community to do its job where Obama is involved. Historically, the American press tends to be hard on a sitting president and the American people expect it. This keeps everybody honest. Never have we witnessed the media so willing to forgo its purpose for the advancement of one man."
11. The Most Ethical and Transparent Government In History
Obama promised to deliver the most transparent government the world has ever seen.

10. Lobbyists for me but not for thee…
When Obama was on the campaign trail he had a lot of tough words for evil lobbyists.

9. No interest in Obama’s history, plenty of interest in his “historical significance”
Short of repeating, verbatim, Obama’s two autobiographies (seriously, who writes two autobiographies before the age of 50) the Obama-loving media showed no interest in Obama’s history, Chicago connections, or experience.

8. Occidental College, Columbia College and Harvard grades…still sealed
I can only guess that Obama was a terrible student with all the effort that has gone into sealing his educational records. The press had a field day skewing George W. Bush for getting Cs.

7. The President’s Security Blankie - the teleprompter
President Obama, the man they said was the greatest speaker of all time has a curious quirk.

6. Michelle O No!
Many years ago there lived an Emperor, who was so excessively fond of grand new clothes that he spent all his money upon them, that he might be very fine.

5. Verbal Gaffes
 I will never forget when Dan Quayle misspelled “potato” in a school classroom.

4. Excessive Vacations
The press went wild reporting on Bush’s many “vacations.”
3. Encouraging Racism
Far from becoming the Great Uniter between the races.
2. From a Tiny ACORN Grows a Giant Tree of Corruption
This might be the worst of the events linked to Obama that the networks ignored .
1. Dismal Response Time
From the very beginning, Obama has been an absent executive.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Some People Should Not Be Parents - Or Judges

A mother who admitted teaching her 2-year-old daughter to smoke pot avoided a prison term and instead was placed on probation.
Hamilton County (Ohio) Common Pleas Court Judge Ethna Cooper placed Jessica Gamble, 21, of Springfield Township, on two years probation with plans to reunite her with the child.

“The image I can’t get out of my mind,” the judge told Gamble on Friday, “is watching a video of your baby with a blunt, smoking marijuana.”

I just made a mistake,” Gamble responded, upsetting the judge.

“Just made a mistake’ does not apply to this. You hurt your child, you exploited your child, you drugged your child,” the judge said.
If the judge really felt that way, why not send that miserable excuse of a mother to prison? Gamble was indicted on three felonies – corrupting another with drugs, child endangering and tampering with evidence – that carry a maximum prison sentence of 11½ years.

Oh, wait - here's why. "...the Hamilton County Department of Jobs and Family Services plans to put the child back with her mother."

Say WHAT???

After reading further, it turns out that my worries are misguided, and all will be well.
The judge ordered her to spend two more months in the Justice Center where she must complete a program for drug treatment, job readiness and parenting skills.

After that, Gamble must spend three months in an in-patient drug rehabilitation facility followed by outpatient drug treatment.
“I would like to become not just more of a mother but a better person,” Gamble told the judge.
Whew, that's a relief. I'm sure the mother will be fully rehabilitated, and the child will grow up in a wholesome, nurturing environment [/sarcasm].
At one point on the 1 minute, 37 second video shot in August, a voice believed to be Gamble’s tells the girl “Don’t blow on” the joint.

After the child takes a few more puffs, the same voice asks, “What is that?” and then a hand grabs the child’s hand that is holding the joint. The person shooting the video – Gamble, the indictment alleges – takes the joint from the child’s fist and holds it up so it is in the middle of the image frame. Then she laughs.
It is unbelievable to watch on video a mother teaching her 2-year-old child how to smoke a joint," Prosecutor Joseph Deters said. "There are just some people who should never have children.”

Amen to that.

Here's a picture of the future Mother of the Year candidate.

No word on the father's reaction. In fact, no mention of the father in any of the news stories about this loser masquerading as a parent.

What a surprise...

Sunday Funnies 2011.01.23

Even with spell check, my students manage to misspell words in their assignments. That appears to carry over into the workplace, as evidenced by the following.





A police officer was sent to report on a bomb attack. The scene was a cluttered mess of dead bodies and body parts. He started making notes to document the crime scene.

He came across a head and wrote in his notebook: "Head on bullevard". Then he realized his spelling error and tried again.

Next, he wrote "Head on bouelevard." Again, he realized the spelling was incorrect.

By now he was quite frustrated. He looked around and, when nobody was watching, kicked the head to the side of the road.

His next entry read "Head in gutter."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Amazingly Accurate (And Fun) Internet Personality Test

Yet another Internet time waster, although this one is fun, informative, and pretty accurate. Give it a try (H/T to Bots for the link)

Draw a Pig and reveal your personality traits.


According to the test:

I am a realist. (I like to think so.)

I believe in tradition, am friendly, and remember dates (Pretty accurate, although I did have our wedding date engraved inside my ring so I wouldn't forget it. Now if I can just remember to check it...)

I am emotional (I try to hide it) and care little for details (Amen to that.)

I am a risk-taker. (I've been married three times, so I must be.)

I am secure (Yes), stubborn (I prefer to think of my self as 'committed and determined'), and stick to my ideals (Yes).

I am a poor listener. (See the above comment. Actually, I think my wife said something like this a while back, but I tuned her out.)

There was also a comment regarding the quality of my sex life, but I omitted that for modesty's sake.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2011.01.21

This one pretty much says it all...

Guess Hu's Coming To Dinner

Some thoughts on obama's recent state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao:
The singer Barbra Streisand was among the 225 guests who attended the state dinner held in honour of President Hu Jintao of China at the White House.
When asked about her credentials for being invited, Streisand responded: "I worked in a Chinese restaurant."

 Class, Babs, real class...

Former figure skater Michelle Kwan added some eye candy to the proceedings.


I don't usually agree with Donald Trump, but in this case he absolutely nailed it.
Billionaire Donald Trump isn’t too happy about the White House dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao held Wednesday night. He thinks China is taking advantage of President Barack Obama, Politico reports.
“For us to be holding state dinners for people who are just totally manipulating their currency ... is hard to believe," says Trump, who called "Fox & Friends" to express his dismay. "You don't give dinners to the enemy and that's what they're doing."
So what would Trump do if he was president? "I would say, 'Get off your plane, come to my office and let's talk.'"
And if that didn’t work? "I would have sent them to McDonalds if we didn't make a deal and said, 'Go home,'” Trump says. “The fact is they're laughing at our leadership, and we're letting them get away with murder.”

In addition to the economic shenanigans undertaken by the ChiComs, there's the human rights element.
Hu was the guest of honor at a White House lunch hosted in April 2006 by President George W. Bush, but the Chinese would have much preferred the cachet of a state dinner, said Anita McBride, former First Lady Laura Bush's chief of staff and a guest at the lunch.

McBride said a dinner was nixed because of China's human rights record.

Gee, how about that? A stand on principle, instead of political expediency...

UPDATE: Rush commented on the irony of two Nobel Peace Prize winners (obama and Jimmy Carter) honoring at a state dinner the person responsible for keeping a third Nobel Peace Prize winner in prison (from Peter).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lack Of Energy

I filled up the truck today. Not especially noteworthy, except that I paid $3.00 per gallon. Outrageous!

As I've mentioned before, I live in Central Texas but work in South Texas. During my weekly commute I've noticed a lot of oil and gas activity lately in this part of the state.  Most of it is due to the Eagle Ford Shale formation, producing both oil and natural gas in higher concentrations than most shale plays.

The activity is obvious: infrastructure development (roads, utilities, and railroad upgrades); production activity (wells, pipelines, rig yards); and related business development that caters to energy industry workers (mostly landmen and roughnecks). Some anecdotal examples:
  • New restaurants (primarily steakhouse-type eateries; one such is the Black Brush Grill and Saloon that recently opened in Cotulla, a small town of about 3000)
  • A topless club - Barebacks - just opened in Encinal, a small town of less than 1000 permanent residents (does anyone really think a town of less than 1000 can support a topless joint?), but strategically located in the heart of Eagle Shale.
  • Numerous new trailer parks and cheap extended-stay hotels around the region.
Not to mention assorted landowners suddenly facing the so-called 'Cadillac problem' of what to do with unexpected, and large, royalty checks from oil companies (think "Beverly Hillbillies, but slightly more sophisticated).

(Yes, this is stereotyping of oil field workers and small town folks, but I've spent my share of time in and around oil fields and boom towns, and I'm here to testify there's some underlying truth to it.)

All this means an economic mini-boom in South Texas. It's good for the economy, good for the people (more money being spent down here translates into more income for the people living here, which translates into more jobs and higher standards of living). It's also good for the state (more tax revenue) and the country (less dependence on foreign energy).

In contrast, the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has recently expired, but new permits are notoriously difficult to obtain.   
Twenty five new deepwater rigs came out of shipyards this year (2010) — and another 35 are expected in 2011. A moratorium stopped deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for five months and new drilling is still slow to get approved. But activity in other parts of the globe continues largely unabated.
    Businesses dependent on energy activity in the Gulf have surprisingly managed to stay afloat, in large part due to BP's $20 billion compensation fund. However, that fund is beginning to dry up.
    Many small regional businesses along the Gulf Coast have largely weathered last year's moratorium on deepwater drilling but could fail if the pace of such drilling doesn't pick up soon, according to a new economic impact study by a non-profit group that studies economic trends.
    So why is this so difficult for obama and his stooges to understand? Or perhaps they do understand all too well.
    President Bush was queried more than 20 times by reporters about gasoline prices. By contrast, President Obama has been asked two questions by reporters about the newest spike in fuel costs. But the President's critics suggest that White House policies may play a larger role in the price rise this time than in the previous administration. The Heritage Foundation's, Rory Cooper says, "Obviously the policies of the White House for the past two years have been designed to raise energy prices. Their desire for alternative fuels is led by the fact that they are so expensive, they need gas prices to go up, so that way they can convince consumers that dollar for dollar, to choose a different energy source."
    Indeed, the President's choice for Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, told the Wall Street Journal in a 2008 interview, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe."

    Today, gasoline prices in Europe range from $7.24 a gallon in France, to $7.98 a gallon in the Netherlands -- prices that some economists fear could halt the economic recovery taking hold across Europe.
    Dan Leistikow of the Department of Energy says, "We are continuing in the near term to pursue responsible production of our oil and gas resources at home, while at the same time taking historic action to transition to a clean energy economy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil through...vehicle efficiency standards coupled with strategic investments in electric vehicles, bio-fuels and mass transit."
    Read that last paragraph again. It pretty clearly states that the obama administration's goal of hamstringing domestic oil and gas production while 'transitioning' to alternate, and heavily subsidized, energy sources. The problem with that plan is that it isn't working. 
    Aided by at least $43 million in assistance from the government of Massachusetts and an innovative solar energy  technology, Evergreen Solar emerged in the last three years as the third-largest maker of solar panels in the United States.

    But now the company is closing its main American factory, laying off the 800 workers by the end of March and shifting production to a joint venture with a Chinese company in central China.

    In addition to solar energy, China just passed the United States as the world’s largest builder and installer of wind turbines.
    Solar company Solyndra to close factory, cut jobs
    It isn’t easy being green for Solyndra Inc., the controversial Bay Area solar power system manufacturing company.

    The company said Wednesday that it is shuttering one of its factories to save $60 million in capital expenditures, laying off 40 employees and letting the contracts for more than 100 temporary workers expire.

    All this despite a $535-million federal loan guarantee, more than $1 billion in private equity funds and supportive visits from luminaries such as  Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and President Barack Obama.
    Note that these businesses were heavily subsidized by we taxpayers, and milked for their publicity by numerous political figures. In spite of that they failed, while the oil and gas industry thrives, regardless of administration oppression. There's a lesson in there somewhere.
    And I haven't even touched on the negative impact of rising energy prices on a still-fragile economic recovery...

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    What A Sad State Of Affairs

    In a vain attempt to offset the effects of aging and lifestyle, I try to squeeze some form of exercise into my daily routine.

    Sadly, age and beer are winning.

    But that's not the point of this post. Instead, it's a commentary on how suspicious we have become of each other. Case in point:

    Today I went out for a walk. My usual route is a hike and bike trail that winds through a neighborhood park. At one point the trail passes close to a playground. As I huffed and puffed my way around the trail I noticed that there was a group of young mothers with their kids at the playground. I also noticed one little boy, about three years old, who had wandered pretty far away from the group. He was 30-40 yards away, near the edge of the path. 

    The mothers saw me about the same time that the stray boy's mom noticed where he was. She called out for him to return, but he was fascinated by something in the dirt on the side of the path. He briefly raised his head, looked at her, and went back to what he was doing. She called him a couple more times, her volume getting higher and her tone of voice getting more urgent as I passed the playground and advanced on the kid.

    At this point I was picking up very hostile vibes from the moms. I was between them and the kid, and about 20 yards past them.

    This being South Texas, and only a few miles from the Texas-Mexico border, I figured there was a good chance that at least one of the moms was packing. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt (eat your heart out, yankees), and we were nowhere near a vehicle, so I hoped they would figure out I was harmless.

    On the other hand, I'm pretty big (6'1" and around 250 lbs.) and have a beard (neatly trimmed, but still...). And I was bearing down on this kid. He looked up at me and smiled. I smiled back and moved to the opposite side of the trail. He stood up and waddled over in front of me. I moved back to the other side. He mirrored me.

    The space between my shoulder blades started itching as I imagined his mom assuming her Weaver stance. I decided to stop and let the boy find his way around me back to his mom, which he thankfully did.

    A few paces later I came across his Buzz Lightyear action figure, which he had abandoned when his mom called him. I picked it up, turned around, and as harmlessly as possible called out "Excuse me, but I think your son forgot this."

    Mom replied "Thanks" in a distinctly non-thankful voice, so I laid it down in the middle of the trail and went on my way.

    What is so sad about this encounter is that my first reaction, quickly stifled, was to be friendly and interact with the kid. It was quickly stifled because most American males are now conditioned to approach an unfamiliar child with extreme caution, least they be perceived as some sort of pervert.

    Even more sad is that parents view strange men as potential threats. I don't blame the women for their response. I'm a parent too. And when my kids were that age I was watchful as hell. In fact, I'm still that way about my 14-year old daughter, much to her dismay.

    But I do regret that we live in a world where their first response is, sadly, justified...

    Quick Hit

    "China's economy is predicted to overtake America's economy within the next decade or two. Jim O'Neill, chief global economist for investment bank Goldman Sachs, predicts it will happen by 2027. Professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts it will happen sooner -- by 2020."

    Based on the above, we have obama bowing to Hu















    and this shot of the rear bumper of obama's limo














    A picture's worth 1000 words...

    FID

    Here's my new hat. I wear it every Wednesday.

    and damn proud of it...

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Why?

    From Moonbattery:
    The annual MLK observance at the state house in Columbia SC had an interesting twist this year. The event is held on the north side steps of the statehouse. Prominent at that location is a large bronze statue of George Washington. This year, the NAACP constructed a "box" to conceal the Father of His Country from view so that participants would not be offended by his presence.
    Revisionist history ... denial of reality ... political correctness run amok ...? Words literally fail me in the face of this nonsense.
    I wonder what Dr. King would say...

    UPDATE:  "The NAACP has morphed into a left wing political action committee committed to electing liberal democrats who support their eternal victim, America sucks; eternal entitlement agenda."

    We're From The Government And We're Here To Help

    I was browsing the Wall Street Journal and came across an article that disclosed 'the rest of the story' re: NJ Governor Chris Christie's recent decision to halt construction on a tunnel linking NJ and New York City.
    When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie put the kibosh on the mega infrastructure project known as the ARC train tunnel last summer he cited billions of dollars in projected cost overruns as the reason. But during a visit to The Wall Street Journal's offices on Wednesday Mr. Christie, a Republican, told us that the overruns were only the final straw. Almost as important was the design of the project, which Mr. Christie called "ridiculous."

    The issue is far from over. New Jersey spent $271 million of federal money on the initial stages of the project. He said that the federal government's decision to release that money when ARC did not have final approval and did not have safeguards in place to protect against waste should have been a no-no. "That's my argument of why I don't have to pay the money back."
    "ARC" stands for Access to the Region's Core and the tunnel was supposed to enable New Jersey train riders to connect to Penn Station in New York and the east side of the city. But the final design had trains dumping passengers elsewhere. "No one wanted to go into the basement of Macy's, 10 stories underground, come 10 stories back up to Herald Square and walk over to Penn station to get another train." It was not what was promised, he told us.

    New Jersey was also bearing too much of the cost in his view. When he halted the project, he said that "the only phone calls of protest I got were from [New York] Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg, [then-New York] Governor [David] Paterson and New York City real estate developers. And I thought to myself, 'Hey, you know, I think I might've stumbled onto something.'" The governor said he started to see the project as "access to New York's core, thanks New Jersey."

    Mr. Christie said that he told Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood that he could not "justify to New Jerseyans that we are paying 70% of the cost of this project plus the overruns when [the federal government is] building high-speed rail between Orlando and Tampa and paying 80% of the cost." Mr. Christie said he also told Mr. LaHood that he understands that "Florida has more electoral votes than New Jersey and that New Jersey is not competitive and Florida is. But, enough."

    So how come a badly designed project was recklessly put in gear, with federal assistance? Mr. Christie cited an inspector general's report that says the plan was hurried "for a ground breaking ceremony in July 2009 in the middle of the [gubernatorial] campaign." There was no final approved plan, he says, but the [department of transportation] allowed the federal money to be spent anyway "because they were trying to help the incumbent governor get re-elected."
    Let's see. A government project that wastes money, is ill-designed, and has political overtones. Not exactly a surprise. But it does serve nicely to illustrate a brilliant metaphor for government from here (via Peter).














     
    No, not the hopper... but the thing on the wall next to it.

    It's reported to be a 'Toilet Paper Dispenser', and it appeared one day from the blue. A maintenance man took down the old unit, which had rolls of standard industrial grade sand paper, and installed this..... thing.

    As I was seated next to it one day (Roll of REAL toilet paper in hand), I had time to contemplate this.... thing.

    With a flash, I realized it's a near perfect metaphor for government (or school administration).

    No one knows who decided to put it there, no one was asked if they wanted it, and no one likes it. It looks shiny and promises to do something useful, but in operation actually does nothing but cause frustration. The more one attempts to make it perform it's duty, the more it resists useful operation, and the more frustration it causes. In the end, one must make plans to take care of ones own needs, as the shiny thing which promised to do so merely hangs around in expensive and arrogant impotence, mocking those it reputes to serve.

    Amen, brother.

    The sad/frustrating/criminal/all of the above element of the NJ tunnel is that no one will be held accountable for such an obviously inept, incompetent, and blatantly political project. If this was a private sector project someone would be demoted, fired, and/or indicted.

    And I see no hope for change...

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    FOD

    On the road today, back to South Texas to begin another semester of trying to offset 12 years of public schooling. Based on past results, it's not likely, but I'm an optimist. Every semester I see the light dawn in a couple of students' eyes, which is enough to keep me coming back for more. It's a version of what B.F. Skinner called random or intermittent reinforcement.

    Skinner said "Behavior that is reinforced intermittently is much more difficult to extinguish than behavior that is reinforced continuously."

    Why? Because once the continuous reinforcement stops, it usually stops for good, while intermittent reinforcement typically continues to occur over time.

    In the animal world, for example, you might only drop food on the kitchen floor once or twice a month, but that's enough to keep your dog following you around every time you cook. As for people, just think about how many people play lottery scratch-off games, or play the slots in Las Vages. They all know (or should know) that the long-term odds are against them winning, but those occasional rewards keep them playing.

    But I digress. The purpose of today's post is to report on my recent search for obama's birth certificate while I was in Hawaii.

    Alas, I must report that I found no evidence, either supporting or disproving, the claim that obama was not born in Hawaii. It's similar to the hordes of media people who swarmed Florida in the wake of Bush's controversial victory over Al Gore in 2000. After months of research and investigation, all they could say was "We didn't find any evidence that Bush stole the election." Well, all I can say is that I didn't find any evidence that obama was born, or not born, in Hawaii.

    I did, however, find the following picture.


    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    I'm As Confused As A Baby In A Topless Bar

    I honestly don't know what to think about this.

    Reactions mixed on women in combat arms
    A military advisory panel on diversity in the armed forces signaled this week that it may recommend that female troops should be able to serve in combat units without any restrictions, calling the current prohibition an out-of-date idea that unnecessarily discriminates against women.

    The recommendation, if eventually approved by military officials, would open front-line posts to military women for the first time. Women are now restricted to serving in combat support roles.
    The following quote from the story does a pretty good job of capturing my position (with one caveat). 
    “... but as long as you can do the job required — female, gay, white, whatever — as long as it doesn’t hamper the mission, I’m all for it”
    Caveat: Like many other things in this world, its easy in concept, but the devil's in the details.

    On a somewhat related topic, we have the following

    The US Army announced the winner of the 2010 "Best Warrior Competition".
    In the enlisted group the winner is SGT Sherri Gallagher.

    She is assigned to the Army marksmanship unit and is a enlisted to be an 88M or what you civilians call a "truck driver". In her extensive time in the Army she has been deployed exactly zero times.

    You read that right. In an army at war in two theaters, the Army Best Warrior cannot in any sense of the word be termed a "warrior". It's not as if there weren't plenty of people to chose from who did have combat experience. Or even a job in a unit that might go to combat someday. Or even a job that had a military purpose.

    The Army Marksmanship Unit is a shooting team. They do not deploy to combat. They deploy to Olympics trials and international shooting competitions.
    I didn't post this to single out SGT Gallagher. I have nothing but respect for her decision to serve her country, and her accomplishments in getting named to the Army Marksmanship Unit. The purpose of this post is to question how well we can expect an organization to integrate gays and women into combat units without impacting their effectiveness, when that same organization names as its "Best Warrior" someone who has never seen combat.

    Confused? I know I am...

    Sunday Funnies

    The Spring 2011 semester starts this week. The cartoon below illustrates my feelings.



    A very attractive student came into my office near the end of last semester. She was failing the class and wanted to know if she could improve her grade.

    She glanced down the hall, closed my office door, knelt on the floor, and pleadingly said, "I would do anything to pass this course."

    She leaned closer, flipped back her hair, licked her lips, and continued. "I mean..." she whispered, "... I would do... anything."

    I returned her gaze. "Anything?"

    "Anything."

    I lowered my voice and whispered seductively, "Would you... study?"

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Another Memorial

    On Friday, Jan. 14, a crowd of Washington insiders gathered at the Kennedy Center for a memorial to honor longtime U.S. diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, who brokered the peace accords that ended the war in Bosnia, and who was obama's chief envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. President obama was among the eulogists.
    In Washington, one president on a stage is a big deal. Holbrooke merited two. (obama and clinton)

    There were network anchors and admirals, power brokers and influence peddlers, senators and ambassadors.
    There is no word on whether or not t-shirts were handed out.

    Hawaii Trip Reflections

    Wrapping up some loose ends from our recent Hawaii trip. This is a lengthy post, so please be patient...

    The first thing that struck me was the gas prices. When we left Texas it was around $2.69 per gallon. When we landed in Oahu it was $3.73 per gallon. I understand that it's an island and everything has to be shipped there, but damn ... just DAMN.

    My wife scheduled us for a number of different activities while we were there. In my mind I divided them into two categories: one where we were responsible for ourselves (e.g., boogie boarding, snorkeling, hiking, surfing) and one where we were dependent on others for our safety (parasailing and ziplining). This really hit home during the parasailing, when my son and I were dangling a few hundred feet above the ocean while being towed by a speedboat crewed by a couple of surfer dudes.

    As we boarded the boat I noticed the name on the stern - "Lucky Lady." It looked like it was hastily painted over something, kind of like those paint patches you see covering up gang graffiti. I didn't give it a second thought, as we were busy getting fitted for harnesses, briefed by the crew on what to expect and what to do in the case of a malfunction or emergency, and sightseeing as we left the harbor and set sail for the open sea.

    We were strapped into the harnesses, hooked up to a steel bar that was connected to the parachute, sat on the rear deck of the boat, and before I knew it we were whisked off and up. At first it was fun and enjoyable, but then...

    By nature and training I almost always inspect any gear I'm going to rely on in a potentially dangerous situation. For some reason, in this case I was lulled into a false sense of security. I did take a quick look at the D-rings and carabiners that connected us to the steel bar, and the steel bar to the parachute, but I overlooked the line that connected the steel bar to the boat. As we were sailing through the air, I noticed that the line was faded and frayed, probably as a result of the sun and salt. I also noticed that the knot used to fasten the line to the steel bar looked more like a series of half-hitches than any sort of seaman's knot. 

    Of course at this point it was too late to do anything about it. I consoled myself with the thought that if the line snapped or the knot came undone we would basically just be parachuting into the ocean. We're both pretty strong swimmers, and we had on life vests, so I wasn't too worried, but still...

    About this time the speedboat turned and I could see some artwork on its side. It was the original name of the boat: "Classy Bong."

    At that point a couple of remarks the crew made snapped into focus. Something about leaving Mexico and going to the Caribbean, and then having to leave the Caribbean and moving to Hawaii.

    Still, everything went well. We had a great time, made it back safely, and enjoyed the crew's company. But the next day, when we went ziplining, I did pay a lot closer attention to the gear and the staff.

    I mentioned earlier about the long, high zips we did. Here's an example. The picture was taken from the platform we left from. There are two parallel lines faintly visible in the top center of the picture. Those are the ziplines. If you look very, very closely on the right side of the picture, slightly less than halfway down, you can see the platform we landed on. It's about 1/4 mile away. (You can click to embiggen any of these pictures.)


    We spent most of our time on the island of Kauai. The very first thing we noticed leaving the airport was that the place is overrun with chickens - lots and lots of chickens. There are a couple of stories that purport to explain them. One is that when Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai in 1992 it blew the roofs off all the chicken coops on the island and the birds escaped. Another explanation, and one I put more stock in, is that the sugarcane plantation laborers imported from the Philippines in the late 1800s brought chickens with them, both for eating and for cockfighting. Over the years a number escaped and multiplied, lacking any natural predators. I tend to believe this one because the wild roosters are brightly colored - usually a nice-looking bright red, banded with other colors.



    The chickens are wild, tough, and wary. They'll let you get close, but not too close. They're also tough, both figuratively and literally. A local story states that the best way to cook a wild chicken is to place it in a pot of boiling water with a lava rock. Keep it boiling until the rock gets soft, then throw away the chicken and eat the rock.

    Feral chickens - go figure.

    Speaking of eating, we fell in love with a local desert call Hula Pie. It's a big hunk of Lappert's macadamia nut ice cream (Lappert's is to Hawaii as Blue Bell is to Texas) covered with chocolate sauce and crushed macadamia nuts, and buried under a mound of whipped cream. One serving satisfies a family of four.

    Hula Pie - before.


    Hula Pie - after.


    After chowing down on several Hula Pies it was time to work off some of those calories. So my darling bride dragged us off to hike up and down (and up and down and up and down and up and down...) Waimea Canyon. As previously reported, a gorgeous view of the canyon


    was followed by a disappointing view of Waipoo Falls, probably because we hiked to the top of them. In the picture below, the people you see on the edge of the rocks are right next to the 800 foot dropoff over which the falls flow. (Again, click to embiggen.)


    I posted earlier about the insensitivity of some people in demanding that special accommodations be made for them, in spite of the fact that they are visitors in a different land/culture, and in the minority. I saw a perfect example of this one afternoon in Hawaii. I was sitting in a bar watching Arkansas play Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl (As an aside, Hawaii time (HST) is 4 hours ahead of CST, my usual time zone. This means that football games scheduled for noon CST (1:00 p.m. EST) start at 8:00 a.m. HST. As a result, the bars open early in the morning to accommodate fans. This requires a little getting used to, but it's a surprisingly easy adjustment after the first beer or two).

    Anyway, this particular bowl game started around 3:00 p.m. HST. There was a pretty good crowd in the bar watching it, including some of those obnoxious Hog fans, all dressed in red and making those ridiculous sooie pig noises (the hillbilly equivalent of the vuvuzelas from the World Cup). In the midst of all this hooting and hollering a Canadian walked up to the bar and asked the bartender if he could switch the TV to the Canadian junior hockey championships.

    There was a stunned moment of silence, and then the hogheads surged to their feet as one. I'll give the bartender a lot of credit. He eyed the crowd and very smoothly said "I'm sorry, but we don't get that channel." The Canadian, very politely as is their wont, thanked him and wandered off in search of another bar that would accommodate him.

    Those of us watching the game just looked at each other and asked "Was that guy really serious?" The bartender said they get a few Canadians in from time to time, and have their stock "We don't get that channel" reply ready. But how oblivious was the Canadian? I understand that hockey is a national obsession with them, but was he blind to the crowd in the bar? And for the junior nationals? Maybe the Stanley Cup, but the junior nationals? What was he thinking?

    Speaking of people oblivious to their surroundings, there are some people that should be prevented, under penalty of law, from appearing in public in a bathing suit. 'Nuff said. (For God's sake DO NOT click to embiggen.)




    Bottom line - great people, very warm and friendly; great place, beautiful with lots to do. We're already planning a return trip.

    I'll describe the Great obama Birth Certificate Search in a later post...

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Friday Follies Not-So-Happy-Hour

    This one is dedicated to the victims of the Tucson shootings and their families. It's one of my favorite spirituals. By combining grief and hope it brings closure to the mourners while leaving them with the feeling that there's a better home awaiting. I pray it's so.

    I Have A New Hero

    From Drudge:

    Maine guv to NAACP: 'Kiss my Butt'...
    While attending a meeting for business leaders in Sanford, Governor Paul LePage spoke out about why he would not attend Martin Luther King ceremonies on the upcoming holiday.

    LePage has declined invitations from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The organization has already expressed its displeasure with the governor's plans to not attend the events.

    "They are a special interest. End of story...and I'm not going to be held hostage by special interests. And if they want, they can look at my family picture. My son happens to be black, so they can do whatever they'd like about it," said LePage.

    LePage has an adopted son who is from Jamaica.

    When LePage was asked if his non-participation is more than one instance, and rather a pattern, he replied, "Tell 'em to kiss my butt. If they want to play the race card, come to dinner and my son will talk to them."

    This isn't the first time LePage has caused a stir with his comments. During the campaign, while speaking in front of a group of fishermen, then-candidate LePage said if he were elected governor, headlines would read "Governor LePage tells President Obama to go to Hell." 
    Give the guy credit for having the stones to call the NAACP what it is - a special interest group. In this case it's special interest is perpetuating racial disunity by emphasizing differences rather than commonalities. Anyone who dares questions the motives of the NAACP is immediately labeled a racist, regardless of the validity of their comments.

    Ditto for disagreeing with obama. If you do so then you are by default a racist.

    How's this for a dream ticket in 2012: NJ Gov. Chris Christie and Maine Gov. Paul LePage? At least there wouldn't be any doubt about where they stand...

    Small Town Life

    I love living in (well, actually about 15 miles outside of) a small town. Why? Here's my errand list from yesterday.
    • Get  a haircut (Larry's Barber Shop - an old fashioned real barber shop, not a salon or styling parlor. It's been in the same place, run by the same guy - Larry - for around 25 years. There's usually some folks who aren't there for a haircut just sitting around BS-ing. $12 for a haircut and beard trim)
    • Submit my passport renewal paperwork at the county courthouse.
    • Run by the bank.
    • Pick up the dry cleaning.
    • Pick up medicine at the drug store.
    • Get a flu shot.
    • Go by the post office.
    • Get a few things at the grocery store.
    • Fill the truck up with gas.
    Total elapsed time in town - 1 hour 55 minutes. Add in another 30 minutes round trip travel time and I got a whole slew of stuff done in around 2 1/2 hours. And that includes chat time with several people I ran into that I knew.

    I got up in the morning, had a cup of coffee, ran my errands, and was home in time for my wife to fix me lunch. That's hard to beat...

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Perspective

    5 Nov. 2009 - Ft. Hood, Texas
    13 people killed and 30 wounded by (allegedly - snort) Nidal Malik Hasan, a muslim who shouted "Allahu Akbar" as he moved through the room shooting a semi-automatic pistol with high-capacity magazines. The American public was immediately cautioned by the mainstream media and assorted liberal politicians against making any assumptions regarding the shooter's motivation.

    After a few days the story fades from the news cycle, with only occasional sporadic updates. The dead are allowed to rest in peace.

     8 Jan. 2011 - Tucson, Arizona
    6 people killed and 13 wounded by Jared Lee Loughner (again, allegedly), a mentally unstable individual with no apparent ties to or interest in any particular political party, using a semi-automatic pistol with high-capacity magazines. The mainstream media and assorted liberal politicians immediately blame the shootings on incendiary rhetoric from conservative politicians and talk radio.

    After a few days the story remains a high-profile exchange of charges and counter-charges. The dead are politicized for personal and political purposes.

    This topic has been beaten to death (caution - violent rhetorical usage, not to be taken literally). I don't have much to add, other than to offer thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families. However, I would like to provide a couple of links that highlight the sickening hypocrisy of the left and their media minions (or is it the other way around? See the Final Note below).

    Go here for a Right Wing Hate Speech Quiz.

    Go here for an Illustrated Primer of Hate Speech

    Final Note: I was getting my hair cut today in a traditional, old-fashioned barber shop here in the small town where I live. There were the usual old farts hanging around, and the topic of discussion was the Tucson shootings. As you might expect, general disgust was voiced regarding politicians and the media. One old fellow summed it up by snorting "Politicians ... Hell, they're almost as bad as the press."

    That should give you some idea of how far the media's reputation has fallen, when they're ranked below politicians...